CC Capsule: 1981 Mazda GLC/323 Wagon – Not Quite As Great

(first posted 2/25/2011)  This is a companion piece to the 1981 Mazda GLC Hatchback CC

I haven’t yet have found an old-school RWD GLC hatchback, but this GLC wagon is pretty close, because it’s basically a wagon version of the little Chevettish-Mazda. Taking a page out of GM’s old playbook of keeping an older platform alive (“____ Classic”) after it’s presumed successor has arrived, Mazda kept the old RWD GLC/323 wagon in production for years after the all-new FWD hatch graced us with its very advanced design. This little GLC “Classic” is an odd-ball, but it deserves its own little CC, just not a great one (if there is such a thing). 🙂 

Here’s how it looked in its earlier incarnation, trying hard to feel some of the RX-7’s halo effect. Little Japanese wagons were good bread-and-butter business for their makers (that $4295 is $12,750 in 2010 dollars). The Corolla and Datsun wagons sold well, and Mazda wanted in, and to stay in. But the new FWD BD platform that arrived in 1981 was never designed for genuine wagon use, so Mazda got creative, and grafted a facsimile of the new hatchback’s front end sheet metal on the old bug-eyed GLC wagon.

They kept that charade going too, until 1986, although I’m not totally sure they were sold in the US until the end. It made plenty of sense, especially if it’s going to be a real station wagon, with an extended rear cargo area, not just a pretender. The more cargo weight back there, the better the traction. Before traction control came along, that still meant something. Ask an old Volvo driver.

Speaking of old Volvo wagons, as we are prone to doing often around here, it might not be too much of a stretch to call this a compact take on a 245. These old Mazdas were tough as sixteen-penny nails, their RWD underpinnings having their roots in Mazda’s very first small car, the Familia of 1963 (above). Now I can add that car to the long list of cars influenced by the 1960 Corvair. That list just keeps getting longer.

The question as to how much the RWD GLC hatchback was influenced (copied from?) by the Chevette is a good one. I’m not exactly sure of the precise release dates of each of them, except that the GLC supposedly came out two years after the Chevette. That would make it kind of tight, unless that vaunted Japanese rep for imitation was really in high gear at Mazda.

But look at the interiors too; the Mazda’s (at the top) is shockingly similar to this inviting Chevette decor. Definitely adds more ingredients to the theory. Whatever; it’s all long in the past, and Mazda obviously didn’t take any more looks over GM’s shoulders going forward. If only it had been more the other way around.